ELECTRIC cars are clean, quiet and, it seems, the way of the future. Tesla, an American firm that has done much to help electric cars shed their museli-munching image, is struggling to meet demand for its mid-market Model 3 (though that has not stopped it announcing plans to build electric lorries as well). Volvo, a Swedish carmaker, has said that, from 2019, all its cars will be at least part-electric. Volkswagen has plans to offer battery options across all of its brands; General Motors has made similar noises. Some countries, including China, Britain and France, are mooting bans on internal-combustion vehicles, to take effect within a couple of decades.
Not all forms of transport are so easy to electrify. One of the hardest is aviation, where battery power runs up against a serious problem: weight. Kilo-for-kilo, fossil fuels contain roughly 100 times as much energy as a lithium-ion battery. On the road, that is a problem which can be designed around. For a machine that must lift itself…Continue reading